Rhode Island Rams
Overall Rank: #55
Conference Rank: #3 A-10
2006-07: 19-14, 10-6, 4th (t)
2006-07 postseason: none
Rhode Island’s Jimmy Baron is one of the most underappreciated shooters in the nation. Baron connected on nearly 48 percent of his long balls and knocked down three per game. He is a smart player who will find his teammates as well. It is good to be a son of a coach, but Baron is the son of the coach. His father, Coach Jim Baron, instilled a more up-tempo style of play and that has greatly benefited his son. Parfait Bitee did a decent job running the point last year. The turnovers are high, but he will get to the basket quickly and find the shooters on the perimeter. Keith Cothran is expected to see more minutes after averaging 6.3 points per game last year. His versatility had a positive effect last year in an otherwise thin backcourt.
The Rams spent most of last season without Jamael Lynch, Jon Lucky and Frank Monge so their departures will have little effect on the team. Jonathan Cruz and Terence Grier, both of whom are transferring, averaged less than eight minutes per game. So is anybody leaving who will make a difference? Darrell Harris is as close as it gets. The center started 25 games last year and averaged 6.6 points and 3.7 rebounds. Those numbers are replaceable, but the seven-footer had a nice shooting touch and could handle the ball. The Rams will be hard pressed to find another seven-footer who could fit so well into their new offensive look.
Depth was rarely an issue last year, but it will never be this season. At 6-9 and 280 pounds, junior college transfer Jason Francis will immediately provide a big body in the paint. When you add his toughness to his 280 pound frame, Francis is not a guy you want to see standing under the basket. Center Will Martell and forward Hakim McCullar will need some time before they find themselves in the regular rotation and, along with redshirt freshman Delroy James, will give Coach Baron plenty of options up front. Bitee is not a true point guard and the more minutes incoming freshman Marquis Jones can give his team, the better. Jones will be that pass-first point guard the team needs and it will be interesting to see how quickly he can make an impact. Jones can get to the basket and is a decent defender. As long as he adjusts to the level of play, Jones will see plenty of playing time.
Who to Watch:
The backcourt has some talent, but it is the frontcourt that has the depth. Will Daniels and Kahiem Seawright will return to their starting positions. Daniels led the team with 17.4 points per game and the 6-8 Hyde Park, New York product is looking for big things his senior year. He has the size and the strength to score in the paint, but it is his outside shooting ability that makes Daniels so dangerous. Seawright is coming off an impressive sophomore campaign that saw him average 11.2 points and a team high 7.5 rebounds. He will spend most of his time under the basket and has developed a nice one-two punch with the more versatile Daniels. Joe Mbang could start at the small forward spot if the team needs a bigger lineup. The 6-7 forward spent last year as the sixth man and helped out the team on so many levels. He is a solid shooter from anywhere on the floor and can use his size to help out on the glass. Lamonte Ulmer was down a ways on the depth chart during his freshman campaign, but when he was in the game, he did a good job. At 6-6, Ulmer is undersized for a power forward, but that did not stop him from scoring in the paint and grabbing some rebounds.
Depth is important for Rhode Island with their high scoring offense. Everybody will get tired sooner or later and having all the talented newcomers will be extremely beneficial. Nobody is going to make it through the A-10 without their share of ups and downs, but Rhode Island will be near the top and not far away from a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Parfait Bitee, Senior, Guard, 7.2 points per game
Jimmy Baron, Junior, Guard, 14.6 points per game
Joe Mbang, Senior, Forward, 8.4 points per game
Will Daniels, Senior, Forward, 17.4 points per game
Kahiem Seawright, Junior, Forward, 11.2 points per game